No one could have predicted the success of Far Cry 3. Somewhat of a niche series before last year’s release, Ubisoft sold millions of copies off the back of stellar review scores, word of mouth and the one and only Vaas. Fast forward a couple of months and here we are at what is a massive departure for the series.
In every piece of marketing leading up to Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s arrival, its message was clear: Don’t take this seriously, its just a bit of fun. Whilst there are some issues with this standalone offshoot and it doesn’t hit all of its marks, it does deliver on that promise of daft, unrestrained entertainment.
Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt is a war veteran, a cyber-commando Mark IV soldier, and an American hero but, more importantly, he’s a parody on your favourite action movie heroes from the 1980′s. Set in the year 2007, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon epitomises those motion pictures from a bygone era such as Escape From New York, Blade Runner and RoboCop. The 21st century was a distant reality and imagined as a place where androids were common-place and neon lighting was mandatory. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s plot is just as absurd as you’d imagine with a nuclear war between the US and Russia destroying most of Canada, a robot army called Omega Force going rogue and dragons that shoot laser beams.
It all sounds delightfully over-the-top but the satire doesn’t always tickle one’s funny bone. One glaring problem is Michael Biehn (The Terminator, Aliens). In one of the humourous promotional trailers for Ubisoft Montreal’s latest effort, Biehn states that he’s “here for the paycheck” and that comedy jab feels like a blatant truth from the beginning of the game. The dialogue written for the character of Colt is pretty on point for the majority of the story, but Biehn’s delivery falls flat and thus, the jokes fail. His performance is brought more into question when the supporting cast are considered – particularly the main villain of Colonel Ike Sloan. Picture the most over-the-top, brutish bad guy and Sloan is exactly that. A wonderful antagonist to a lacklustre protagonist.
The main campaign of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, although an enjoyable ride with some great moments including one section where you are forced to use all manner of smarts to take down two dragons, is excruciatingly short. When the plot feels like it’s about to really kick off, you’re entering your final mission. But like Far Cry 3, this downloadable jaunt can provide as much fun in its random encounters as it can in its linear crusade to take down Sloan. Those magical moments where you’re behind the wheel of a 4×4 and see a a cyber-panther attacking a group of your Omega Force adversaries is a joy to behold. Jumping into a gunfight between scientists and highly armoured foes is just as exhilarating as it was in Blood Dragon’s retail disc counterpart.
In addition to the main campaign, liberating any of the various Garrisons (obliterating all enemies in one given area) that are spread across the world open up sidequests where the player must either approach a spattering of the cyber-military that are holding a scientist hostage, or eliminate a group of animals that are up to no good. Fairly simple and quick distractions that add somewhat to the low mission count in Colt’s narrative.
Of course, the human element isn’t the only danger here, as the title of the game would suggest. Dragons are a very welcome addition to the Far Cry mythos and will present players with a challenge like no other animal in the series. These gigantic behemoths have poor eyesight and can be avoided by creeping around them, but the fun lies in the suffering they can inflict upon you and your rivals. Cyber-hearts can be looted from Omega Force corpses and, thankfully, dragons have a taste for the bionic offal, meaning these can be used to lure the laser breathing hellions to wherever you wish. Garrisons can be liberated much more easily if you have brought a dragon to the party, for instance. On the other hand, slaying the beasts is even more satisfying.
However, on the subject of your prey, don’t expect something that’s been fleshed out to include animal skinning and the like because even though the four-legged creatures do crop up and pose tests of varying difficulty to the player, the only reward for taking out a mutated cassowary is cold hard cash. Upgradable pouches and wallets aren’t featured here – that’s all saved for your high-tech arsenal. Silencers, laser sights and all of the attachments you can think of are compatible with the weaponry of 2007. With your back pocket full of easily attainable credits, opposition equalisers are purchased via vending machines across this post-post apocalyptic world. For the true completionist, there are collectibles strewn about that will also level up your arms.
The game’s art and soundtrack only add to the emotion that this supposed relic from thirty years ago can evoke. On a dark canvas, the mesmerising luminous pinks and purples reverberate all around Sgt. Rex Colt’s mayhem. From the in-door settings to the grassy pastures, the “future” is captured perfectly by the developer. The music, even moreso. From the delectably named Powerglove, the soundtrack is packing some heavy, industrial beats, as well as time-travelling synthesised melodies. Aesthetically and phonically, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon has the power to transport the player back a number of decades.
VERDICT: It’s a shame that there are factors such as a weak lead character and a painfully short story because Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is almost everything it promised it would be leading up to release. It may not be as fleshed-out as its predecessor, but with the gameplay intact and the impression that this world feels alive with its ever apparent optional kerfuffles, Ubisoft have put together a rollicking good time. The supporting cast holds their own in a plotline that will pique the interest of older action movie fans, whilst the visual style and gloriously on-point synth melodies only complement proceedings. You wanted fun? You got it.
EXCELLENT. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.